War in Ukraine: Kyiv accumulates victories in social networks

“I love you… Oh yes, I love you.” Gainsbourg’s song begins with a parade of sweets and delicate roses. Love manifests itself in different ways, reminiscent of video subtitles. “But nothing stands still in our hearts… like self-propelled, highly mobile 155-mm artillery. Thank you, France… Please send us more,” the video ends with the apotheosis of photos of the Caesar guns.

The video on the Twitter account of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine did not go unnoticed. The profile, however, often mixes such humorous messages with its posts. Like this photo of a Ukrainian with muscles on his forehead, holding a cup with the caption “Don’t talk to me until I have my morning coffee”, or this parody advertisement for Leclerc tanks, praising their “compactness”, “sportiness”. and an easy-to-park character in Claude François’ crazy title.

A mode of communication that contrasts with the solemnity of de Gaulle or Churchill. She is no less brilliant. Because in 2023, the information war is more important and more difficult than ever. Social media allows both parties to reach new audiences both inside and outside their borders. But the number of posts online (1.7 million Facebook posts every minute, 350,000 tweets, etc.) is such that serious topics are quickly overshadowed by the latest trendy joke on TikTok.

Fortunately, the Ukrainian population is well versed in the codes of the Web. From the very beginning of the invasion, she waged a bitter fight with the Russians on the Internet. “We first tried to show them the reality of the explosions, the deaths they caused,” explains Sergei Korolev, CEO of Railsware. Sword in the water. The Russians, doused with propaganda, do not believe the Ukrainian testimonies and do not dare to take any position on this matter.

Therefore, the Ukrainians focused on other digital battles, tirelessly commenting on the conflict, achievements and losses inflicted on the enemy in order to demoralize him. On social media, they are reaching out to allies (states as well as big groups like Microsoft, SpaceX, etc.) to gain more visible support. Through their photographs and videos, civilians open thousands of windows to the reality of conflict, showing lives cut short, homes destroyed and everyday life turned upside down. “This is the first time that conflict has been transferred to the digital space in this way,” said Bruno Breton, CEO of social media analytics platform Bloom.

Parody montages of Vladimir Putin

And while humor has always been used to ridicule the enemy, the Ukrainians have taken discipline to a whole new level. The slightest event is commented with enthusiasm, through a stream of memes, those popular social media distracting images. Flooding of Moscow? The transformation of a Russian ship into a “submarine” is laughed at by Ukraine, which “liked” the installation of the placement of the boat on the Titanic poster. Others show a comically indiscreet monkey depicting Russia approaching a small stick next to a large sleeping lion with “NATO” written on it, or blowing up the Kerch Bridge like a birthday card (Vladimir Putin’s blowup fell little after that Kremlin mishap).

Behind these inventive publications there is an organization that is more professional than it seems: some are carried out spontaneously, but the authorities have commissioned a group of individuals to develop them en masse. And it’s smart. “Memes are a more powerful communication tool than we think. NATO, the US and China take how they influence public opinion very seriously,” analyzes Julien Nochetti, junior fellow at the French Institute of International Affairs. Admittedly, we do not fit long discussions into these vignettes. But the subject is understood in two seconds and causes immediate laughter (if done right).

Perfect for undermining the image of Russia and the fake news it spreads while boosting Ukrainian morale. And a shocking cocktail that will go viral online and make war the main topic of global discussion. “A year later, the conflict is still generating a lot of posts: more than 4.4 million in one week,” says Véronique Reil Soult, public opinion specialist and president of Backbone Consulting. Result: 2 out of 3 citizens polled by Ipsos in 13 Western countries continue to approve sanctions on Russian oil and gas, and 57% support Ukraine until the Russians leave. Kyiv always leads the delicate battle of opinions.

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